Holiday Decorating for Kids and Grownups

By Patty Sachs and Phyllis Cambria co-authors of

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Throwing a Great Party

Gather a collection of your favorite, no-longer-used, or unusual tree ornaments into a crystal bowl or a basket for a last-minute centerpiece, or to keep on display throughout the house during the holiday season.

Drape your exterior doors and windows in pine or spruce branches. (Most tree lots give away leftover branches for free!) To keep them fresh, use a spray bottle to spritz the boughs daily with water.

Gild small castoff toys with gold spray paint and tuck them into branches or wreaths of fresh greens. Add a gold string to use as hanging ornaments. (Mismatched toys are mini-items like plastic tools, tea cups cars, trucks,  Legos™, animals, balls and puzzle pieces.)

Wrap small cardboard containers (pasta, rice and cereal boxes work well) as gifts, in waterproof papers, pieces of plastic tablecloths or decorative bags, then hang with ribbon on tree branches or shrubs in your yard.

For mini-tree decorations wrap tiny boxes such as those for raisins, juice, individual cereals, or jewelry.


Have lots of shells from your summer vacation? Spray them gold or silver, or leave natural, drill a small hole, string them as ornaments on a seaside-themed Christmas tree or as a garlands of shells.

Customize smaller trees with collections such as sports cards (in plastic protectors,) souvenir spoons, cookie cutters, bells, mini-dolls, costume jewelry or fancy hair ornaments.

Use permanent markers to paint festive designs on cast-off beverage glasses, tie a pretty ribbon around the stem and use as votive candle holders to make a festive collection on your holiday table.

If you display all your gifts under your tree before the holiday, color-coordinate the wrapping paper with the rest of your seasonal decor. Gift boxes with beautifully wrapped tops can be used year after year.


Spray dried pasta in holiday colors and let children string the pieces together to use on your tree or around your room.

Make a free-form table runner using leftover pine branches, votive candles in holders, ribbon, battery-operated twinkle lights, nuts and fruit. (Be extremely careful with candle’s flames and heat so they don’t come in contact with the branches.)

 Decorate the doors to your children’s rooms as large gifts using wide ribbon and paper specially sized for the job.

Make paper chains of metallic wrapping paper and swag them over windows, doorways and on stair rails.


Place a small tree in each child’s room to decorate as he or she dreams it.

Tie a festive plaid bow around the necks of your child’s stuffed animals or dolls and pose them prettily around your home.

Fill a shiny red wagon with holiday packages as a decorative display.

Save and display your children’s hand-crafted holiday cards and holiday photos in picture frames.

Create ornaments using your child’s photo, one for each year. When it is time for that child to decorate his own home for the holidays, present him with the entire set.



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